Liberian Charles Taylor: Long sleeves or short sleeves?
The judges found him guilty of aiding and abetting rebel forces in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting children younger than 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns.
Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, suggested the trial was politically motivated. He claimed his client’s conviction was “obtained on tainted and corrupted evidence” based on the testimony of witnesses from Sierra Leone who were paid to appear in court.
Griffiths portrayed Taylor as a legitimate leader who aided rebels in a neighboring nation. Those rebels, not Taylor himself, should be held accountable for their actions, the lawyer contended.
Prosecutors accused Taylor of financing and giving orders to Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war that ultimately left 50,000 dead or missing. His support for the rebels fueled the bloody war, prosecutors said.
Fighters included teenagers forced to kill, rape and plunder placed under the influence of drugs to provoke violent behavior.
Witnesses testified about grisly violence by the rebels during the conflict, including shooting and disemboweling pregnant women and children. Sometimes, rebels asked people if they wanted long sleeves or short sleeves. The former meant hacking off hands; the latter, forearms.
Along with Ethiopia, Liberia is one of the two modern countries in Sub-Saharan Africa without roots in the European colonization of Africa. Beginning in 1820, the region was colonized by freed American slaves with the help of the American Colonization Society, a private organization that believed ex-slaves would have greater freedom and equality in Africa. Slaves freed from slave ships were also sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin. In 1847, these colonists founded the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the United States and naming the capital city Monrovia after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the colonization. The colonists, known as Americo-Liberians, led the political and economic sectors of the country.
The country began to modernize in the 1940s following investment by the United States during World War II and economic liberalization under President William Tubman.
A military coup overthrew the Americo-Liberian leadership in 1980, marking the beginning of political and economic instability and two successive civil wars that left approximately 250,000 people dead and devastated the country’s economy.
A 2003 peace deal led to democratic elections in 2005.
Today, Liberia is recovering from the lingering effects of the civil war and related economic dislocation, with about 85% of the population living below the international poverty line.
- Prosecution wants 80 years for Charles Taylor (sacbee.com)
- Charles Taylor Verdict Spurs Anger From Liberians (npr.org)
- Charles Taylor’s ex-wife: ‘He’s not responsible for Sierra Leone war crimes’ – video (focusonliberia.wordpress.com)
- Will Liberia’s Ex-President Charles Taylor See Justice? (getwititmagazine.com)